ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - For anyone who thought it might be
difficult for Matt Grothe and South Florida to get excited about
playing what amounted to an extra home game, the Bulls and their
dual-threat quarterback answered with a dominating performance in
the first St. Petersburg Bowl.
Grothe moved ahead of West Virginia's Pat White as the Big
East's career total offense leader, throwing for 236 yards and
three touchdowns to on the way to a 41-14 victory over Memphis on
Grothe and White, a senior who will finish his season in the
Meineke Bowl on Dec. 27, are the only players in league history to
amass more than 10,000 yards total offense. White has 10,142 in 49
games, and Grothe, who also rushed for 82 yards on 15 carries
Saturday, finished the night with 10,214 in 39 games.
USF (8-5) scored on four of its first five possessions to build
a 24-14 halftime lead, forcing Memphis (6-7) to play catch-up and
essentially taking 1,000-yard rusher Curtis Steele out of the
Tigers' game plan.
Memphis' Arkelon Hall threw for one TD and ran for another. But
Steele was held to 48 yards rushing on 12 attempts by a stout run
defense determined to redeem itself this postseason after giving up
253 yards to Oregon's Jonathan Stewart during a lopsided loss in
last year's Sun Bowl.
Grothe threw TD passes of 26 yards to Taurus Johnson, 13 to Ben
Busbee and 24 to Dontavia Bogan before being replaced by Grant
Gregory with USF leading 34-14 late in the third quarter.
Hall was 15-of-30 for 154 yards and no interceptions for
Memphis, with much of that coming on a swing pass that Steele
turned into a 50-yard gain early in the second half. He ran 3 yards
for a first-quarter touchdown, then threw 2 yards to Duke Calhoun
for the Tigers' other TD just before halftime.
It was the first meeting between the former Conference USA
rivals since USF left that league for the Big East in 2005. The
teams split four games between 2001 and 2004, and Memphis relished
the challenge of facing an opponent from a BCS conference for the
first time in five bowl appearances under coach Tommy West.
The Tigers, who won six of nine games to become bowl eligible
after an 0-3 start, viewed Saturday as an opportunity to gauge how
much they've progressed toward a goal of having a BCS-caliber
On this day, they were nowhere close to a South Florida team
that began the season with high expectations after being ranked as
high as No. 2 in 2007. The Bulls won their first five before
stumbling badly in the Big East and winding up in a bowl game just
32 miles from USF's main campus in Tampa.
Downtown St. Petersburg is close enough that coach Jim Leavitt
and his players bused from the team hotel back to campus for
practice all week, truly making it seem like an extra home game
rather than a bowl trip.
The announced crowd at Tropicana Field, the domed home of
baseball's Tampa Bay Rays, was 25,202.